CNN, like every big media company, now has an iPhone app. But the cable network has left out the one potentially useful feature that only CNN could offer: A live stream of CNN.
Instead, it has packed the app with recorded video “news” clips — for example, “Take a Look at This!” featuring a “crazy burger like no other!” — and will sometimes offer a live stream of its separate CNN.com news feed. (We’re tuned in right now. The picture quality is fine; the programming isn’t as sharp as the TV network.)
Where’s Larry King Live? Ask your cable company.
Cable giants like Comcast and Time Warner Cable pay big bucks to distribute channels like CNN in your area — perhaps $7 or $8 per subscriber, per year — and have no interest watching their monopoly evaporate thanks to the Web, the iPhone App Store, or any other distribution vehicle they don’t control.
And because CNN gets a huge portion of its revenue from these cable subscriber fees, it has an economic incentive to preserve the status quo, even if it means offering its iPhone app users an inferior product.
So instead, we’re stuck with the CNN.com stream. This is perhaps better than having no video in the app at all. But we’d certainly be more excited to use the app to tune right into the real CNN when we have a few minutes to kill. We might even spend money for it, in addition to the $1.99 we’ve already spent. (Though that’s not likely to help: Even $1 or $2 a month from a few hundred thousand iPhone owners is not going to change CNN’s allegiance to its business model.)
What could improve this situation? Time, of course, which will eventually break the current cable distribution model.
In the meantime, the cable companies’ “TV Everywhere” service, in theory, will someday be able to verify that you’re a paying cable customer, and then might grant you the right to watch a live stream of CNN TV on your laptop or iPhone. But that’s still a theoretical feature. And it doesn’t help “Hulu Households” who don’t subscribe to cable, like mine.
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